This week, Reading becomes the centre of alternative music’s universe, as the annual Bank Holiday blow-out festival rolls into town, but Saltwater Sun are doing their bit to make sure the focus stays fixed outside of one long weekend a year.
They’ve already started that process, with a 2018 that’s so far included The Great Escape and Dork’s very own Etc. festival.
Now, with their latest track ‘Hot Mess’, they’re building a woozy late summer wall of cinematic vibes. You can check out the video for the first time below.
All ready to appear at Reading & Leeds this coming weekend, we caught up with vocalist Jen Stearnes to find out more about one of our fave new bands on the indie block.
Hi Jen! How did you lot get together, then?
We’ve been friends since school, the boys used to play in different crappy pop-punk bands together, and I’d go and watch them at battle of the bands and stuff. Each of us was involved in some kind of musical project growing up, and in more recent times, when those had come to an end, the boys decided to start jamming together. They initially wanted someone to do backing vocals and keys (guitarist Dan was singing) and thought of me, but I’m pretty terrible at playing keys and singing at the same time so that somehow meant I got bumped up to lead singer! Mediocrity wins.
Did you have a musical upbringing?
I’ve been playing the piano since I was 3 and actually had clarinet lessons with Joel (guitar) when we were 7. He’s still waiting to drop a sweet clarinet solo on a track, I’m sure. I was always attempting to learn a new instrument growing up, or working things out that I’d heard on the TV, by ear on the piano, much to the annoyance of everyone around me.
What bands do you think are smashing it right now? Who are you into?
We all love The Magic Gang; I think they’re the only band coming close to filling the Maccabees shaped hole in our lives. It’s been really great to see them grow as a band, and see the stages they play steadily get bigger. Their debut album is awesome. I personally listen to Car Seat Headrest, The Districts and Big Thief a lot. One of our favourite new bands around are Thyla.
What’s been the highlight of your time as a musician so far?
The Great Escape festival this year was wild! Everywhere we played was packed to capacity, with people queuing up to get in outside. We had to leg it from venue to venue and from interview to interview, and we got to see a lot of amazing bands; it was very special. Particularly as we’d been away from the live circuit for a while.
Are you creative in non-musical ways too?
I’m pretty rubbish at everything except music, and even that’s up for debate! I maintain it’s because I’m left-handed, clumsy and impatient, which is not the best combo when it comes to sitting quietly and making things! I used to be okay at photography, but I’d always forget to take my films to get developed. I enjoy writing beyond our lyrics, though. Joel’s a sound engineer, but then that’s not exactly non-musical. Dan can score a pretty creative goal now and then; we’ll give him that.
What do you do for fun?
I still go to gigs for fun, even when we’ve been playing a lot. Joel’s the same. Watching and performing music never gets old for us. Dan plays for a local football team, and Benny (drums) is really outdoorsy, he likes to go out and fall off his bike. Rob (bass) doesn’t have fun; he isn’t allowed.
Tell us about your new single, ‘Hot Mess’.
‘Hot Mess’ was an idea we had floating around for a while, which is quite unusual for us as we usually finish songs very quickly once the initial idea is formed. We sat on it for a little while and made a few tweaks to the arrangement here and there, and I think that really paid off. It’s quite different from our other songs. ‘Hot Mess’ is all about remembering not to take yourself too seriously, and that substance over style is where it’s at.
Do you have lots of bangers ready to go?
We spent all of last year writing and recording, pretty much, so we’ve got a few bangers ready to pop and a few more to be recorded in the coming months.
What are your plans for the next few months? There’s Reading & Leeds, right?
Actual Reading & Leeds! We can’t believe it – it’s a dream come true for us as a band, so they are going to be two really special shows for us. Then a couple of weeks after that we’re heading out on our first ever headline tour, so it’s such an amazing time for us at the moment. We’ll also keep writing in amongst all that excitement, we promise.
Have you been to Reading & Leeds before?
Oh if only you knew the things I have seen! I’ve been going to Reading festival every year, for the whole weekend, since I was 13 years old. I haven’t missed a year. I’m half expecting them to whack up a blue plaque in G3 campsite for me when I die. It’s such an honour to finally get to play. The boys have been multiple times too. It’s our local.
Do you enjoy festivals generally, or is the whole camping and mud thing a bit much?
I love festivals. I massively missed Glastonbury this year as it wasn’t on but managed to get to Primavera Sound in Barcelona with Joel, which was amazing and Latitude, which helped the Glasto withdrawal for sure. I have to be honest here though – I’ve got an old VW Campervan which is a level up from camping (when she doesn’t break down en route, which happens a fair bit).
Who’s the best act you’ve ever seen at a festival?
There are too many amazing ones to pick the best, but I can remember the first time I saw Arcade Fire was at Reading in the NME tent as it was then. I was really young; I think I’d only heard ‘Haiti’ at this point and decided to swing by on my own and check them out. It was the sundown set kind of time, and they were incredible. I watched the whole thing, awestruck. I remember going back to camp and trying to explain what I’d seen to my friends: band members switching instruments, smashing each other with drumsticks on helmets they were wearing and throwing toms around. They became one of my favourite bands after that.
Saltwater Sun’s new single ‘Hot Mess’ is out now.
Words: Sam Taylor